A New "Baby X"
Parents keep child’s gender under wraps
I know this may be old news by now (posted May 24) but I still can’t get the message it carries out of my mind. I highly recommend reading the article I posted on the top, but for a quick summary: Two parents decided NOT to reveal their healthy baby’s gender and this has essentially caused an uproar from family, friends, etc. For those of you who remember Baby X (http://www.sa.ucsb.edu/women/blog/file.axd?file=2011%2F4%2FBabyX.pdf) people don’t know to do when they cannot approach a baby and say “Oh, she’s a doll!” or “What a handsome boy!” Is it that unacceptable to simply acknowledge a healthy, beautiful new being in the world?
I’ve focused some of my studying in gender issues but I have not delved into the subject nearly as deeply as I would like to, so please excuse and feel free to correct me if I begin to over-generalize. I believe there is something inherently wrong with the way gender has been constructed in our society. And sadly, I cannot seem to put my finger on exactly what that is.
Gender is no longer as simple as, “If it has a penis, it’s a boy.” Genitalia doesn’t tell gender and neither do hormones, physical attributes, neurons… There is no universal “if you have this, then you’re this.” I hate to say it, but I am morally dumbfounded to even find an appropriate definition of gender.
I believe we have a few options to ameliorate our current dependance on gender categorization. I think a good first step is to proliferate the categories: add a checkbox on the SATs for intersex, male-identified female, female-identified male, unkown sex, etc. The list goes on and on. Think though, would this not be an excellent way of educating the public and making aware the fact that gender is by no means a binary system? However, I can’t help but see this eventually going too far… Refer to the “one drop rule” of race: “I’m one drop Irish, one drop German, one drop South African, one drop Russian….” There’s no end to the combinations people can conjure once this option is offered. Once people are aware that there are other options besides White or Black, they cannot help but start to think of all the ways they now fit under the “Other” category. Gender proliferation, therefore, would be a great step to induce awareness of the problem, but as far as solving it goes… I just don’t see it.
That leads me to a quasi-eliminativist approach. (For further information on this, please look to Laurie Shrage’s “Sex and Miscibility” where I agree with much of her argument). What if we could eliminate the gender binary system to the extent that it was only on a medically need-to-know basis. Other than that, humans were free to be and love whatever they chose. A good friend of mine uses the term “sexual fluidity” and I’d like to apply that to gender as well. There would be no gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-sexual; there would be humans and love would be fluid, so to speak.
Sound nice? What about transsexuals, though? The people who enjoy a sort of dual-identity; the ones who need categories to be established for them to enjoy their category. With quasi-eliminativism, transsexuals lose this identity, because there would be no need to classify someone as a female in male’s body, or vis versa. Also, I wonder if we eliminated gender identities, would we begin to lose other forms of categorization? Such as hierarchies in the workplace or support groups for certain kinds of people/causes (would there be a women’s movement?). What would happen to reproduction if we could no longer preach to find the opposite sex and form a family? I don’t have an answer for this either.
This all brings me back to baby Storm. Storm’s parents seem to be acknowledging the gender system as current standards define it, but they are letting Storm choose his or her or its place. As one of Storm’s parents so eloquently put it, "If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs."
I can’t wait to follow up on this piece. I imagine the world a better place without these kind of pressures. Without being dressed in pink or blue the second you’re born, or handed dolls and play kitchens vs toy trucks and baseballs. There is nothing wrong with ambiguity, it does not matter if you walk up to a person and cannot immediately tell “boy” or “girl.” We’re humans, and what’s between our legs should not give us our identities before we can choose them.